While all the attention was focused on Nick Kyrgios’ non-appearance at Wednesday’s United Cup media launch, there was another notable absence.
Australia’s co-captain Lleyton Hewitt was due to accompany Sam Stosur at the home team’s press conference but wasn’t even in the country. His flight was delayed but he is expected to be on the sidelines for Thursday night’s Australia opening match at the Ken Rosewall Arena.
Aussie a hit with Rafa
Australia’s Jordan Thompson was given the honor of taking on Rafael Nadal on Center Court on Wednesday.
The world number 84, who lives in Sydney, is not part of Australia’s United Cup campaign. Instead, he spent his afternoon helping Nadal fine-tune his game ahead of the Spaniard’s opening game against Norrie.
Nadal has won both of his career matches against Thompson, the last in the opening round of the French Open this year.
Kvitova’s second home
Nobody has had more success in Sydney than Czech star Petra Kvitova. The two-time Grand Slam champion has won 29 titles over the course of her career, two of them in Sydney.
Her first success was against fellow Czech Karolina Pliskova eight years ago before winning the Sydney International Trophy again in 2019 against retired Australian superstar Ash Barty.
“When we came to the United Cup, I wished we could play in Sydney,” said Kvitova ahead of the Czech Republic’s first United Cup game on Thursday afternoon.
“We couldn’t ask for more. I have great memories from here. It’s always the best and I look forward to sharing this beautiful Center Court with my team-mates.”
Demon is supposed to make money after Kyrgios’ retreat
Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal may have been a pain for Alex de Minaur, who now faces Cameron Norrie and Rafael Nadal as Australia’s No. 1 men’s player, but it also means he’s in line for cash too.
The United Cup’s unique prize money structure operates on a sliding scale based on whether a player is the #1 or #2 individual player for their country. It shamelessly tries to attract the best players in the world, who will also get $296,000 just for showing up at the event if they are among the top 10 players.
De Minaur will now pocket $57,000 for an individual win in the group stage of the United Cup, while Kyrgio’s replacement, Jason Kubler, will pocket $38,000 for a win as the team’s number two. A victory as the best player of a team in the final is worth a whopping $372,000.
Captains use technology for coaching
Britain captain Tim Henman was fond of speaking about the benefits of technology for his United Cup campaign, which has seen teams utilize a ‘strategy room’ of instant replays as part of a relaxation of the sport’s normally strict coaching laws.
“I think everyone is a little bit different with the input they want on the court,” Henman said. “You have to feel that anyway.
“Technology is such a beneficial adjunct to sport, if it’s there, use it. Three years ago [in the ATP Cup] I thought the teams in the corners of the pitch were absolutely brilliant. When you have a big team you can create excitement in the corner and I think that’s brilliant.”
Germany’s captain Mischa Zverev said: “Data in tennis generally plays a bigger role these days. Sometimes it’s very useful, sometimes I even call it confusing because there are many things we need but many things we don’t need.”
Watch the United Cup live and free on the Nine Network on Channel 9 and 9Gem. Every game is broadcast live 9Now.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/nadal-hoping-nanny-makes-australian-open-campaign-child-s-play-20221228-p5c947.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport New dad Rafael Nadal brings a nanny to Sydney to help in an attack on the Australian Open